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A Direct Method For Teaching And Assessing Professional Skills In Engineering Programs

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Professional Skills and the Workplace

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.32.1 - 13.32.20



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Paper Authors


Ashley Ater Kranov Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology

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Dr. Ashley Ater Kranov is Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology at Washington State University. She specializes in program assessment and has extensive experience in the assessment of engineering education. She has co-authored a number of journal articles and conference proceedings on engineering education, including Integrating Problem-Solving Skills Across an Engineering Curriculum: A Web Resource, 32nd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Proceedings, 2002.

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Robert Olsen Washington State University


Carl Hauser Washington State University

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Carl H. Hauser is an Associate Professor of Computer Science in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at Washington State University (WSU). His research interests include concurrent programming models and mechanisms, networking, programming language implementation, and distributed computing systems. Prior to joining WSU, he worked at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and IBM Research for a total of over 20 years.

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Laura Girardeau Washington State University

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Laura Girardeau, M.S., is a Learning Design Consultant at the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology at Washington State University. She specializes in program assessment, course design to improve critical thinking, and faculty development. She has collaborated on several NSF grants and co-authored journal articles and conference papers at the University of Hawaii on online learning and the assessment of STEM skills.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Direct Method for Teaching and Assessing Professional Skills in Engineering Programs


Proficiency in ABET professional skills (the knowledge, attitudes and values described in outcomes 3f-j) are critical for success in the multidisciplinary, intercultural team interactions that characterize engineering careers in the 21st century. While there have been many program-level efforts across the nation to develop these “soft” skills, such as capstone projects that incorporate study abroad and service learning, no direct method of measuring all six skills simultaneously exists in the literature. This project proposes an innovative and direct method of developing and assessing ABET professional skills simultaneously that can be used at the course-level for assessing student performance and at the program-level for assessing efficacy of the curricula.

In 2007, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) at Washington State University (WSU) collaborated with the College of Engineering and Architecture’s eight engineering programs to develop an authentic performance task called the curricular debrief, as well as a scoring tool based on the ABET professional skills and the nationally validated WSU Critical and Integrative Thinking Rubric. Up to eight randomly-selected senior-year students from each program participated in the curricular debrief sessions. Students were presented with an authentic, unresolved engineering problem in their field and asked to discuss implications and propose some approaches to address the multi-faceted problem. Assessment specialists then trained 21 faculty from the eight programs on how to use the rubric to rate transcripts of the curricular debrief discussions. Based on the rating results, faculty then proposed next steps for improving teaching and assessment in their individual programs.

Results from the preliminary round of curricular debriefs showed that students in most programs were fairly unaware of contemporary issues in their engineering field, as well as unaware of related current national or international concerns. Students were also challenged with understanding the impact of engineering solutions in multiple contexts, particularly societal and global. Communication during the discussion was also a common challenge for students, as some seemed unfamiliar with sharing leadership or opposing views while respecting differences. In some sessions, a few students tended to dominate discussion and make decisions for the team without coming to consensus, while other students hung back and rarely contributed.

Introduction: The 21st Century Challenge

One of the primary issues facing American engineering in the 21st century is the global sourcing of complex services. Prior to 2000, outsourcing of routine engineering functions was commonplace. With growing demand and the improvement of off-shore engineering skills, engineering design, research and development, and innovation (once a trademark of American leadership in engineering) are increasingly moving abroad.1,2 To ensure competitiveness of American educated and trained engineers in the rapidly changing environment of the global economy, engineering education must not only help students develop strong scientific, technical and mathematical foundations, but also an integrated approach to problem solving that moves

Ater Kranov, A., & Olsen, R., & Hauser, C., & Girardeau, L. (2008, June), A Direct Method For Teaching And Assessing Professional Skills In Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4302

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